“It’s like someone hooked on gambling:” Family intervenes for father targeted by con artists

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PHOENIX — His son describes his father’s participation in foreign lottery schemes as an “addiction.” He truly believed the letters that claimed he won a multi-million jackpot.

As we’ve told you, while the claims are a scam, more and more elderly Americans are paying the price every year.

But, one family came together to protect their father and his savings.

“He joined in just about every sweepstakes there could be,” Daniel Minnix said about his father.

Minnix’s father passed away several years ago. But, he has a very powerful message for aging seniors.

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Daniel Minnix and his family intervened after his father got caught up in several lottery sweepstakes scams.

“My dad was a very smart man and he was a good businessman. He even did tax returns for many people all through his life. So, he was very astute,” Minnix said.

As smart as he was, when he began receiving mail and phone calls telling him he won millions of dollars in lottery sweepstakes — he believed them.

“He got caught up in this because of health and that’s what happens with seniors. He had Parkinson’s and early stages of Alzheimer’s,” Minnix explained.

Minnix’s father was responsible for all of the family finances. But, his wife began to realize something was wrong.

“She was confiding in me about how much money he was spending and all of this going out. We’re talking about thousands of dollars,” Minnix said.

Minnix told his mother to stop mailing the enevelopes.

“So, she started not throwing them all away, but some of them away. And then, later, she quit sending any of those,” Minnix recalled.

“It was at that point that the kids starting coming into the equation, his sons and daughter trying to talk to their father and telling him that what he was doing in fact was not winning a prize, but really he was giving up his hard-earned savings,” explained U.S. Postal Inspector Paul Krenn.

“It’s like someone hooked on gambling or hooked on anything. So, ‘the get rich schemes’ work on people like that and it worked on him very well,” Minnix said.

Postal inspectors say victims are often put on a list that is sold to other con artists.

The cycle can be vicious.

“They were relentless. Lots of letters, lots of phone calls, and then it seemed like once he fell for one, somebody else started calling him,” Krenn said.

Fortunately, Minnix’s mother was playing interference by not sending any checks.

“They weren’t getting his money, mother made sure of that,” Minnix said.

Minnix says the con artists can be very convincing. So, communication is key.

“Families need to be involved, so that they know what you are doing,” advised Minnix.

Postal inspectors want to remind you that if you’ve won a legitimate sweepstakes or lottery prize, you should never have to pay upfront  to receive your winnings.